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Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit

Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit

On Friday, September 29, Ames High students participated in the inaugural Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit, hosted by the Des Moines Public Schools and sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The catalyst for the event arose out of a few incidents where a racial slur was used on the football field between a DMPS football team and a metro suburb. This incidents were not in isolation, but the Des Moines Public Schools wanted to use them as a way instigate productive change within the school systems.   

According to a DMPS press release, Roosevelt High School Principal Kevin Biggs was “instrumental in taking the lead in understanding something needed to be done on a larger scale to bring all groups together for the good of the cause.”

Ames High jumped on the opportunity to get students involved and sent 13 students to the summit. Throughout the day, student listened to keynote speakers and engage in discussions with students from other schools. Several Ames students spoke at the summit and talked about their personal experiences with bias as well as the consequences of not speaking out for what is right.

Ames High School Counselor Allison DeBlasi said “the first annual Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit addresses challenging stereotypes and creating an environment where youth feel safe to speak up for what’s right.” Each attending school developed an action plan as a takeaway from the event, presented it to the group of 200 total students, and the implementation of this plan will be led by Ames High student leaders.

In addition to the Des Moines schools of East, Hoover, Lincoln, North, and Roosevelt High, other CIML-members schools who participated in the event included Ames, Ankeny Centennial, Marshalltown, Southeast Polk, Urbandale, Waukee, and West Des Moines Valley.

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Meeker Elementary Buddy Bench

Last year, a group of 5th graders at Meeker Elementary worked with the middle school builders club on a project to make their building better. They saw the need for a Buddy Bench on the playground “as a place for kids to go to indicate that they would like someone to play with at recess,” according to Meeker Elementary School Counselor Kari Deal.

On Friday, August 25, the new Buddy Bench was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Meeker PTO. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a Buddy Bench, it is a place for a child to sit if they’re feeling lonely while indicating interest in joining an individual or group during recess. The bench also provides a visual cue for children playing that another child desires to be included.

The Buddy Bench is a great addition to the playground, but also a wonderful way to continue the Meeker C.A.R.E.S. initiative, which is an acronym for Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. Melissa Stone, a School Counselor at Meeker, said “we’re definitely trying to instill compassion, but also assertion. It’s hard to go sit down and let people know that I want someone to play with.” Kari Deal said “It’s really cool to hear them use the term as they are talking to other kids and adults, and they realize when they are making a positive choice, which ties in really well with the Buddy Bench.”

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Storm of Kindness School Supply Campaign

Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma ravaged southern parts of the United States and Christy Franco’s 4th grade class at Fellows Elementary School followed the events closely as a part of their current events study.

The students began asking questions about what would happen with the schools in the area and were genuinely concerned about the welfare of the students and schools that were impacted by the storm and flooding.

Franco capitalized on their enthusiasm to help and began organizing the “Storm of Kindness” school supply campaign. She reached out to Principal Brandon Schrauth and Fellows PTO President Angie Weber to organize the drive.

Students made posters for the campaign and with the help of a local videography company and Fellows parent, Tom Haggas from Cheshire Moon Films, produced a video to highlight their efforts and to educate the community on how they can help.

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A Brief History of High Schools in the ACSD

This spring, voters will be asked whether they support a bond for a new high school to the tune of $95 million. Let’s get it out of the way and just say that that is a ton of money.

But it’s not the first time that the Ames community has had to make this decision on whether to build a new high school. Let’s look back at the history of high schools in Ames.

High Schools #1 & #2

In March of 1880, the Ames school board submitted a request to issue bonds for the purpose of building a new school house. They were asking for $10,000. When the votes were counted they had 148 citizens in favor, and only 28 against. The debt was contracted and the first brick school house, known as Central School, was constructed on the west side of Clark Avenue, currently where City Hall is located.

The new building had six large classrooms, two of which were used for high school classes. An addition was built in 1900, but its construction was so shoddy that the addition was condemned in 1910 and removed.

After Bearshear Elementary School was built in 1903 and Welch Elementary School opened in 1906, this building was used exclusively for high school students.

When a new high school was built just across the street in 1911, the original 1880 building eventually became Ames’s first junior high school. Neither building stands today, with the original building being demolished in 1937, and high school #2 being taken down more recently in the 1981.

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Thirteen Ames High Students named National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists

National Merit Semifinalists

On September 12, officials of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These individuals have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $32 million that will be offered next spring.

Ames High School had thirteen students achieve Semifinalists status this year. To become a Finalist according to the NMSC, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. The thirteen semifinalists from Ames mark some of the highest totals in the state. Congratulations to these students!

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ACT Report on the Ames High School Graduating Class of 2017

ACT Report 2017

The 2017 Graduating Class ACT Profile Report was recently released, after being embargoed from media publication until September 7. The report summarizes the preparation and performance of last year’s graduates and compares Ames students on the college entrance exam to the state and the nation.

Last year, 214 Ames students took the test with an average composite score of 25.2 (out of a perfect 36). This average is 3 points above the state average, and 4 points better than national average. Ames students performed higher across all the tests which include English, math, reading, and science.

ACT Composite       English        Math         Reading      Science

Nation     21.0                 20.3           20.7            21.4            21.0

Iowa        21.9                 21.2           21.3            22.6            22.1

AHS        25.2                 24.4           24.9            26.0            25.0

No students last year scored a perfect 36, but 5 graduates recorded a score of 35. Of the 214 total students, 48 of them marked a score of ≤ 30.

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Old Edwards Cornerstone

The original Edwards Elementary was built in 1951 and the Board of Education honored the work of David Edwards by naming the “new Fourth Ward school” after him. Edwards was the owner and operator of the Edwards Coal company in Ames and was an influential member of the school board for 18 straight years. During that time, he saw a number of building projects completed, including the construction of Louise Crawford School, the reconstruction of what was the Central Junior High, as well as the Senior High School. He passed away on January 25, 1948.

In 2012, when the Ames community approved a bond measure to rebuild or renovate all of the elementary school buildings, the fate of the old Edwards building was sealed. Unlike other school properties such as Meeker Elementary where a new structure could be built on the same site, there simply was no room on the Edwards property. The Ames Community School District took the opportunity to build a new elementary school in a growing part of town.

History has interesting ways of making itself present. After Edwards Elementary was built in 1951, Meeker Elementary was finished the next year in 1952. Both buildings were done by the same architect and have a similar floorplan. Six decades later, both buildings are new again and followed a similar pattern. The new Edwards Elementary was completed in 2014 with the new Meeker Elementary finished in 2015. They were done by the same architecture firm, and also have a similar floorplan.

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Tackling the Racial Disparity Gap: Step One

Racial Disparity Graphic

On May 25, 2017, the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) met to discuss the 2016-17 goals recommended by District content teams, and reviewed and analyzed the 2017 Iowa Assessment Data. They recommended District goals based on this data, that we, as a District, are required to report in our Annual Progress Report (APR) to the Iowa Department of Education.

During the analysis of subgroup data, SIAC uncovered with quantitative evidence that African-American students were underperforming compared to all other subgroups. Dan Andrews, the Data, Assessment and Program Evaluation Coordinator for the District, presented these findings at the July 17 school board meeting. The achievement gap is considerable and much more than a statistical anomaly: a 28.11 percentage point gap in reading, 33.73 percentage points in science, and 33.91 percentage points in mathematics.

This kind of achievement gap is not unique to the Ames community. In fact, African-American students are underperforming white students across the United States on high stakes standardized tests. In the past couple years, this achievement gap has become a topic in national publications like The Atlantic, U.S. News, and CNN, among many others, where the articles cite studies and show graphs similar to what the SIAC team reviewed. The authors talk about how students in the same building do not receive the same education, or have access to the same academic opportunities, and they call for schools to become agents of change and reform. We agree and believe we can do better in the Ames Community School District.

The difference with the SIAC data compared with those in the national publications is that the SIAC numbers reflect students within the Ames community. Those numbers, and more importantly, those students, can be directly impacted within our buildings.

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DACA Statement from the Superintendent’s Office

DACA Statement

On Tuesday, President Trump and his Administration announced plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Ames Community School District believes that this decision will have a negative impact on many of our students and families, and we want to express our concern and support for those who may be impacted by this decision.

The Ames Schools are designed to provide quality education for all young people who enter our doors. We are inclusive. We are welcoming, equitable and caring for all students regardless of immigration status. We support ALL children, no matter their place of birth, religion, language, or color. We’re glad you’re here. You belong here and we support you.

The responsibility of the Ames Community School District is to prepare all students to be college and career ready, and to equip students to be productive citizens. Like our colleagues at Iowa State University, we have no control or authority over the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Students and families who are fearful or in need of emotional support can reach out to their building principal or school counselor. Additional support can be found here:

Human Resources Director, Ms. Lisa Negus – 515-268-6610

Student Programs Director, Dr. Anthony Jones – 515-268-6628

Registrar, Ms. Barb Peterson – 515-268-6605

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